I’m hoping the dust has settled enough for me to write this. Be patient please it is longer than I normally write and I need you to read to the end! It has been an -interesting -year in the fandom to say the least. Those folks who have been around since the beginning will testify that things have changed. I’m not sure if this is a natural progression in all fandom, growing pains if you will, or something unique to this fandom. This is my first. I started the blog about two and a half years ago and in that time I’ve had a lot of contact with fans and had time to observe changes…
IN THE BEGINNING
I tiptoed into the fandom. It started with being fascinated by the books and wanting to know more about the author. I discovered Herself’s Facebook page and CompuServe. I was at the time, but didn’t know it, a lurker. I watched and read others interactions, but didn’t feel confident enough to wade in myself. One day, news came that the books were finally being made into film and my interest was piqued. I found myself showing up on social media at least once a day to see what was happening. Eventually, our “cast watch” paid off with the news that the last person we expected to be cast was cast first. Sam Heughan was to play Jamie. To say his reception was lukewarm might be an understatement. Now that I’m reflecting, I realize this was probably my first exposure to the negative side of our fandom. Sam just didn’t fit the image of Jamie folks had in their heads and he didn’t fit Diana’s description in “the Book”. I just genuflected. Fidelity to the “book” is a major issue in the fandom. Despite Diana’s assurances that she had her doubts until she saw the audition tape and explaining what it is that actors do…the debate and complaints continued. At first, the passion was amusing to me. I found myself more times than not reading these raging debates about hair color and height while chuckling and eye-rolling. It just couldn’t be taken seriously and I assumed most people could see it for what it was…silly, but harmless.
I would love to say things stayed that way, silly and harmless, but they didn’t. Oh, for awhile things were great! I ventured on to Twitter because I heard Sam tweeted and I wanted to say congratulations. No, I still haven’t heard from him…grumble…grumble. But, in his defense I haven’t tweeted him very often and he has just a few fans now. I also began interacting with other fans. Some folks were playing around with writing Outlander Haiku. I was amused and took a risk of posting one!
Low and behold, people responded and I began to tweet back. It was fun! I was talking to people from all over the world! People were nice, polite, and funny! We all marveled at how we had come together over a book and the phrase “because she wrote a book” was born.
Then, I had my next run in with the negative side of the fandom. I’m not sure why it surprised me, people online are likely to be pretty much the same as people offline, but I was taken aback and saddened. You see, I have an alarming lack of a suspicious nature. I want to believe that everyone is genuine and has good intentions and I tend to overlook what most people would see as red flags. I was warned. My husband who is a good bit more cynical than myself was a bit worried about my interactions with people I only knew online, “People can pretend to be whomever they want to be on there. You have no idea who you are talking to.” He was right. I struck up a friendship with someone I thought I had a lot in common with and ignored what were certainly red flags. This person was not who she presented herself to be. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I have my suspicions that it had to do with jealousy. I found myself ostracized for something I did not do and would never do. I was hurt and angry for awhile, but remembered the advice I gave my daughter when she came home devastated by a rumor.
“Consider the source”, I told her. “How important is this person’s opinion really? Just because someone says something it doesn’t mean you have to take it in and give it power. The people who know you best won’t believe it and they are the folks that matter. The best revenge is living well (or in my case writing well). You know who you are. Find those people who know who you are too and keep being yourself.” Pretty good advice and so, I decided to follow it and I wish others would too. Not everyone you meet in the fandom is who they present themselves to be (hence multiple handles and sock accounts) it’s okay to be cautious and please understand not everyone plays by the same rules.
JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE SAYS SOMETHING
I’ve done a lot of different things in my life. My husband was a college football coach and we moved quite a bit. Every time we moved I got a chance to reinvent myself and try on something new. My Gemini side liked it! One of the things I had a chance to become was a mental health/drug and alcohol counselor. I know this seems strange given my lack of a suspicious nature, but I think that same nature made me more empathetic. I remember several of my clients because of their struggles with addiction and disease, but I also remember how much they taught me about what is important in life. One client in particular helped me be a better mother. Despite her own struggles, she was a good parent and I believe her daughter would most probably survive being the child of an addict because of life lessons taught by her mother. It’s a paradox, I know, but life is rarely simple and easy to understand and addiction doesn’t care who you are or how you were raised. One of funniest and most moving things my client ever told me was how she responded to her daughter when she came home from school upset by a bully who had called her names.
“Jimmy said I was a poop head!” her daughter tearfully exclaimed.
“Well, are you?” said her mother.
She told me her daughter looked shocked and puzzled.
“Go look in the mirror”, she suggested. “Is your head made of poop?”
Her daughter took a serious look into the mirror and responded, “No.”
“Then I guess you aren’t a poop head”, my client confirmed.
People say mean things, but that doesn’t make them true. When someone in the fandom calls you a name take a serious look in the mirror. If you aren’t a poop head let it go and if you are? Acceptance is the first step to recovery. You give it power when you take in the meanness and give it free rent in your head. Believe me when I say your being upset isn’t bothering the name caller at all. They are most probably on their merry way spreading more shite…the poop heads.
I used to believe that it was wrong to tell folks that complained about the show or fandom to stop watching or to get out. I believed that they had every right to talk about what they liked and didn’t like and feel how they wanted to feel . But, I think I might be changing my mind. I get comments on the blog sometimes that give me pause to reconsider my stance on issues including this one. I hear from folks who find themselves so caught up in this fandom and show that it is affecting their well-being.
…there are certain iconic moments and iconic lines that readers have spent years investing themselves in that are ignored or given to the wrong characters, and we’re supposed to be grateful when it happens.
Too many iconic moments were “adapted” into oblivion or – an even worse sin – they were kept, but handed over to other characters. Hearing Claire deliver some of the lines that I have waited years to hear from Jamie’s lips was worse than omission-through-adaptation. At times, it felt like a betrayal of the book fandom, as though the book fandom got it all wrong and RDM was going to show us what we *should* have wanted instead (like shoving Frank down our throats when we’ve been waiting 20 years to see Jamie, and so on, and so on). The Harry Potter films were proper adaptations; if RDM and co. had “adapted” those series, he would have given Harry’s lines away to Snape and Ron, and Hermione would have defeated Voldemort herself, because letting Harry be Harry would have been ‘too predictable’ for book fans and women must be ‘liberated’…
I’m tired of feeling like a “Disgruntled” (as my once-favorite author labeled me on her very own Twitter feed… ) How silly of me to love something for over 10 years and be disappointed when it isn’t delivered, eh? I have been told so many times this season to love it or leave it that I have made the decision to leave it – all of it. It was fun while it lasted, but I give up, I’m shelving the books and leaving Outlander groups and blogs because I’m tired of being vilified for wanting more of what the books were actually about (hint: they are not about Frank; Jamie and Claire are partners and equals and Jamie doesn’t have to be emasculated for his wife to be strong; the love story is a character unto itself, not a side-plot to the Jacobite cause). I’m tired of walking around in an awful mood because of silly TV show and because internet strangers have made me feel bad about feeling bad.
Beth Wesson, your research is thorough and your blog well-written, and I am sad to disagree with such great efforts and writing. Good luck with S3, I’m sad I won’t be with you.
I’m really sad that you feel this way, but I support your need for self care. If you find your self walking around upset and vilified it truly isn’t worth it. Thank you for reading.
If being in this fandom is causing you to feel angry and bad about yourself and affects your real-life … get out. It truly isn’t worth it.
IF YOU LIE DOWN WITH DOGS YOU CAN GET FLEAS
A friend and I were discussing all the drama in the fandom. She had gotten caught up in all the shipper/anti wars. She wasn’t participating, but found herself fascinated. It was like a car wreck that she couldn’t look away from. She found it was interesting to see how people interacted and thought…from a scientific psychological standpoint..ahem.
She urged me to go to Tumblr and check it out. She was right. The rationalization and need to be right I saw was fascinating and …staggering. I found myself reading what can only be termed as manifestos! People were invested in this drama and it was getting uglier by the minute. It made me want to jump in and fix things and yet, I felt hopeless because I knew that there was nothing I could say or do that would make a difference or not make things worse! I found it was very easy to get caught up in the drama and I soon began to feel uncomfortable.
I will say that I think who you hang out with in this fandom might have a lot to do with how you feel about the fandom. What you spend your time on and who you spend it with matters. I found myself becoming anxious and upset when I read all the complaining and truly awful things said about other fans, the cast, crew, writers, producers, and Starz. Then I realized that I needed to take my own advice and ask myself how much these people’s opinions mattered and how much power was I going to give them? I took a look and realized that most were people I didn’t interact with and in the scheme of the millions of people who watch the show they were vocal, but certainly not a majority.
Spending time reading their stuff made me feel bad about myself and the fandom and so, I stopped going to certain blogs and pages and reading certain people’s tweets. Distancing myself was a positive choice. I felt much better and my friend and I, who had also decided to stop going to certain blogs, laughingly wondered if something is said, but we didn’t read it did it actually happen? Truly, in some instances, what you don’t know cant’t hurt you.
I know there is a popular idea that turning a blind eye to this stuff is wrong. On some level, I agree. There are times to stand up, but I also think that there are folks out there who crave the attention and drama and when we respond we feed the behavior. We have all been witness to bullies bullying in the name of stopping bullies. I truly have yet to see any attempts, no matter how well intention-ed, to discuss and build bridges between fans that have actually worked. I applaud and admire the peacemakers’ courage and hearts. But, I’ve come to understand that there are more factions in this fandom than you can shake a stick at! Try to build a bridge with one group and you’ll just piss off another. I don’t think it is a battle that can be won.
So, what’s to do? I’m sorry to say, but I think our only option is to block, mute, ignore, skim on by, report it if it is truly heinous, and find your own tribe. If bitching about the adaptation is your thing then go for it! Find your own group of like-minded folks and bitch away, but if you don’t like being told what to think, what makes you think you have the right to tell someone else what to think? We don’t have to make the choice to get involved or put in our two cents. Some of the most effective ways I’ve seen folks deal with this stuff is to agree to disagree and …let it go! It’s a big fandom and there is room to let folks just be themselves whether we like it or not.
I’ll admit that I still get mad at folks. Just yesterday, I saw some fans discussing the fandom on Twitter. They are the “this fandom drives me crazy” and “I hate this fandom” folks who believe they are the only sane fans out there. The drift of the conversation was that they couldn’t believe that some of these fans were grown women because they acted like teenagers and they were tired of making excuses for them. They knew fans had waited a long time to see the “books” on the screen, but the show isn’t perfect and neither are the books. They then proceeded to explain why they didn’t like the show…because it wasn’t like the “books”. It’s hypocrisy like this that makes me the most angry. It is much easier for me to forgive a fan who gets carried away in passion than those who like to pretend they are above it all while they fawn on the stars and expound on their on cleverness and insight. There is more than one way to be a fan.
Every-time I get angry at some hypocrisy or deliberate attempts to bait cast and creators, I try to remember that there is a multitude of fans who just want to enjoy the show and some for whom it has meant…something more important…and I often hear from them…
Stories make us feel and think. Stories have power. Stories move us, shape us, and do the same to the world.” What a powerful statement….and for me so true!!! This has been an extremely emotional morning for me, after watching the finale early Saturday morning alone, I came to the realization just how important DG’s books and finding this show has been for me. When I discovered the Outlander series I was in a very difficult place emotionally. I first heard about Outlander through a Starz commercial prior to the first season and had every intention of watching. But, as the saying goes, make plans and God laughs….In 2014 my husband was diagnosed with kidney failure, which launched a year long search for a kidney donor and his name being placed on a donor list. After a year, my son, who is not my husbands biological son, made a decision without discussion, to donate his kidney to my husband. He saved my husband’s life. It was a courageous and unselfish thing to do, and for me overwhelming, since both of my men would be on the operating table together, and would suffer the same risks. While this was a very successful transplant, it was nonetheless extremely traumatic for me. In order to be a care-giver and advocate, initially to both and eventually to only my husband, meant that my life had to be placed on hold. I built a wall that protected me emotionally… that wall went up….and never came down…. until…. I read Outlander & watched the show. I wonder if Diana Gabaldon knew when she wrote the Outlander series that she would have the power to change a persons life…but her story had power, and the actors who portrayed those characters and the writers who gave them a voice only enhanced that power. I found her spiritual references, poems, and the love she created between her characters absolutely moving, life-changing and refreshing. Which is why some of us wanted so badly for the adaptation to follow the books, absolutely. But, because RonDMoore had the courage and power to adapt for TV many scenes from the book, one in particular for me, the violation of Fergus, I was forever changed. He gave me power and courage to write on this blog, my experience as a victim. Thank you Beth for providing the safe place to have these discussions! And lets not forget DG’s historical references, which also lead me to trace two of my family lines..Cameron and Fraser….right to Scotland on the battlefields…incredible! I know there are many people who have had their life enhanced or changed by reading the books and viewing the show; just read all the various tweets & this blog. People sometimes laugh at us when we talk Outlander and about the greatness of this show; my husband is one of them, but he doesn’t realize that it saved me emotionally, brought me back to him, and really left an impression on my life. I hope the actors, Diana, Ron, Terry, and all the writers realize how many people have been touched by their creativity….it is absolutely incredible how a series of fictional books and a television show could have that much power, for so many people! It is also a reminder that true love conquers all things, and that love & communication are so important in a relationship. Thank you to all the Outlander cast & crew and especially to DG for writing such wonderful books that have touched me in so many ways. Finally, thank you Beth for utilizing your God given talent to touch us with your insight. You are the best at being able to put into words that prompt us to think and respond……. I am forever grateful……
GETTING OFF MY SOAPBOX
Being a part of this fandom has brought a lot of wonderful things into my life including real-life friends! #cgng #bawdybabes This fandom used to be a fun place. And, I think it still can be. Mining is wrong. Name calling is wrong. Vilifying people for not agreeing with you is wrong. I once wrote a whole researched piece on this topic and realized I’d just be preaching to the choir and so, I put it in the trash. Those who are perpetrators of the drama in this fandom won’t see themselves as such and so, weren’t likely to change their behavior just because I wrote about it. But, there are a lot of folks out there who get caught up in the drama like my friend and I did and it’s you I’m speaking to. Be slow to anger and find joy in this fandom again. It’s there. There are a lot of wonderful, interesting, talented, and generous people from all over the world in this fandom, “Find your way back to us”.